As we come upon the one year-anniversary of Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” statement on July 29th , it looks like some bishops have not yet “gotten the memo” on stressing mercy and not judgment, while perhaps some others are “getting with the program.” Today we will look at two recent negative examples from prominent U.S. prelates, while tomorrow we will look at how one gay-friendly prelate has been recognized by the pope.
The two negative examples from the U.S.:
Archbishop Charles Chaput, Philadelphia
Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) reported on a letter that a local man received recently from Chaput in which the archbishop’s tone can only be described as snide.
Silverman sent a copy of his letter to the archbishop, and received a response on archdiocesan letterhead and signed by Chaput, containing the following statements:
“I received your letter.
“Thanks for giving me instructions on what the Catholic Church should teach. I’m always astonished when people who aren’t believers give me those kind of instructions.
“As I am sure you know from basic logic class, an exception does not make a rule. The nature of marriage itself is about children. That’s how you and I came into this world.”
Silverman said that he assumed the archbishop surmised that he is not Catholic based on his last name.
PGN quoted a reaction from Ken Gavin, the archdiocesan spokesperson, who would not confirm if Chaput sent the letter:
“Archbishop Chaput makes every effort to respond to all those who write to him on various topics and issues. He considers this correspondence private and would expect that individuals who write to him would respect that privacy.”
Silverman has forwarded Chaput’s letter to Pope Francis.
Did Chaput need to use such a snide tone, especially to someone who is not of his faith? Of course, such an attitude only makes Chaput himself seem small, but others, too, besides Silverman, will be hurt by such a callous expression.
Cardinal Francis George, Chicago
Another snide example was recently offered by Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago. In a column about religious liberty in his diocesan newspaper, George took a swipe at marriage equality proponents by saying they are “on the wrong side of nature.” This phrase is presumably a parody of marriage equality proponents’ use of “on the wrong side of history” to describe those opposed to such measures.
George’s quotation, in context, reads:
“Americans are concerned about the economy, and rightly so. We are concerned with the loss of our place in the world, and rightly so. We should also be concerned that we are on the wrong side of what nature teaches us and therefore, at least over the long run, headed for historical failure as a society.”
George’s negative style is exemplified in one of the arguments that he uses earlier in the essay:
“What has happened to our vaunted American liberties? Except for property rights, they are all being traded off in favor of freedom of sexual expression. That ‘freedom’ has become the trump card in almost every social dispute. While the public conversation plays the game of liberal versus conservative, there is really only one issue: freedom versus tyranny, a tyranny masquerading as compassion and suppressing legally differences that seem to threaten abstract ‘equality.’ ”
Herein lies a big part of the problem with such an attitude: George’s language reveals that he sees the question of marriage equality as being primarily about sex and not about love or relationship. There is not only a failure to see beyond sex, but also to see beyond political reality. In my reading of Pope Francis’ remarks of the past year, he seems more concerned about human reality than the political one.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry